2021 Summer Teacher Workshop (RET program)

RET participant, Paul Orbe, listens while Dr. Rachel Brennan explains how duckweed is used to treat and purify wastewater in an ecologically safe, effective and sustainable way.

Sustainability in Materials Science Research for the Classroom and Beyond
July 19-30, 2021
At-Home & Online Via Zoom

The topic of "sustainability" includes a mindset, skills, behaviors, and systems approach that should be considered from every vantage point.  What does "sustainability" mean from the perspective of middle and high school science education and, in particular, the science classroom and laboratory?  How does the field of materials science play a role in both the broad and narrow implications of sustainability?  Since materials science itself is an integrated combination of many traditional disciplines across the physical sciences and engineering fields, it lends itself well to the exploration of sustainability-related concepts, applications, and broader societal impacts. 

This virtual program is designed to bring middle and high school educators, materials science researchers, and sustainability experts together to share and gain knowledge, understand complex connections, and explore opportunities for cutting across traditional silos to implement effective, positive change.

Teachers* of grades 6-12 are invited to apply for participation by Friday, June 4, 2021

All applications received by Friday, June 4th will be reviewed in full, with initial awards being offered within one week or less.  After June 4th, applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, if funds remain available.  Fellowships are limited in number.

Fellowship Award Details

  • $2000 stipend upon completion of the workshop and presentation of a project
  • Opportunity to receive a mini-grant of up to $500 for materials & supplies for project implementation


  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - A Framework for Personal Action to Global Impact
  • Project Drawdown and Green House Gas Emissions
  • More than Reduce, Reuse, Recyle - The Future of Plastics
  • Materials for Renewable Energy Applications
  • Life Cycle Analysis - A Vital Approach to Sustainability in Materials & Beyond
  • More than Green Chemistry - Sustainability in the Research and Classroom Laboratory
  • Next Generation Science Standards - How do they support Sustainability Thinking?
  • Preparing All Students Equitably for our Future World and Workforce


  • Daily weekday Zoom sessions, Monday - Friday, at 12noon - 3PM EDT (3 hrs/day) with "video on"
  • Independent time investment for preparation and reflection regarding session topics  (~ 2 hrs/day)
  • Project development - incorporating sustainability into the classroom or school environment (~ 2 hrs/day)


  • Guest speaker presentations, Q&A, and virtual tours
  • Breakout discussions and small group engagement with faculty and graduate student researchers
  • Networking with anticipated faculty hosts for 2022 RET research projects
  • Individual "bringing sustainability to the classroom" projects
  • Teacher sharing during Brown Bag sessions
  • Individual development of viable projects for later implementation; presentation of final project proposals


  • Attendance and active engagement in all scheduled presentations, discussions, and activities.
  • On-time completion and submission of all preparation and follow-up reflection assignments  (e.g. speaker preparation tasks; discussion forums; reflections; presentations)
  • Final presentation of proposed project (scope is dependent upon individual goals and time available;  mini-grant award opportunity will be offered to particular projects upon panel review following final presentations)

* Eligibility
The funding source for this program requires that selected applicants be US citizens or permanent residents

Application: Click HERE to submit your application by June 4, 2021

Questions include the following:

  • Verification of current teaching/employment status, reference, etc.
  • Certification, education history (degrees/, institutions, dates)
  • Why do you wish to participate in this RET workshop regarding Sustainability in Materials Science at Penn State?
  • What do you hope to personally gain from this workshop with respect to incorporating ideas about sustainability and/or related materials science content as it relates to your teaching, classroom, or school?
  • What is one possible content topic, classroom, or school-related idea regarding "sustainability" that you would like to develop and potentially implement?  (Potential project.)
  • What would you be enthusiastic to share with other educators the will enhance the RET Workshop?
  • Please describe the level of familiarity, experience, and expertise that you have with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
  • What is your best tip for providing meaningful and engaging virtual educational experiences via Zoom other online learning platforms. 

Downloadable PDF Program Announcement: Click here.

Questions?  Contact Kristin Dreyer at kad4@psu.edu